This is a very well-written pity piece by a young editorial assistant at National Review, Charles C. W. Cooke.
Cooke was born in Great Britain and marveled at the freedom and mobility of American society from afar. He liked it even better when he moved here. Alas, he sees the re-election of Barack Obama as an unparalleled catastrophe and asks, “If we are to lose America as it has been, could we not ask that it be lost to something better than this?”:
But, consider this: A president of the United States just ran a reelection campaign based on the promise of government largess, exploitation of class division, the demonization of success, the glorification of identity politics, and the presumption that women are a helpless interest group; and he did so while steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the looming — potentially fatal — crisis that the country faces. And it worked.
Worse, as David Harsanyi has observed, “the president’s central case rests on the idea that individuals should view government as society’s moral center, the engine of prosperity and the arbiter of fairness.” This stunted and tawdry vision of American life was best summed up in his campaign’s contemptible Life of Julia cartoon, which portrayed the American Dream as being impossible without heavy cradle-to-grave government, and in which the civic society that Tocqueville correctly saw as the hallmark of the republic was wholly ignored — if not disdained outright. “Government is the only thing we all belong to,” declared a video at the opening of the Democratic National Convention. In another age, this contention would have been met with incredulity and confusion; in ours, it was cheered.
Cooke isn’t the only doomsayer out there. Prominent pundits like Mark Steyn have also drunk the Kool-Aid and proclaimed the death of America “as we know it.”
Others agree, but seek to motivate the right to fight back and do their best to stop the statist juggernaut.
I don’t know why it is that the right feels compelled to exaggerate the probable consequences of Obama’s re-election. It is utter nonsense to posit disaster for the country when you base that prediction on a flawed, wildly imaginative analysis of what an Obama second term will bring.
We don’t have a “cradle to grave” welfare state now, nor will we have one in four years when Obama leaves office. The president can issue executive order after executive order to try to realize that goal, but good luck, Barry, getting the money to pay for it. Money bills still technically originate in the House of Representatives — a body controlled by the Republican Party. I daresay if the president believed the GOP were obstructionists during his first term, he ain’t seen nothing yet.
There will be a lot of can kicking in an Obama second term. And while we have a debt and deficit crisis, it is not at the point that it would collapse the economy any time soon. Modest economic growth in the next few years will result in a corresponding rise in revenue, thus bringing the deficit down to a more manageable level (along with some token budget cuts). There are pitfalls to avoid, but the short-term fixes that will be agreed to by both sides will allow us to avoid any kind of a massive economic meltdown so confidently predicted by many.
We won’t face up to this crisis. But a Romney win would have resulted in the exact same stalemate. A Romney presidency might have improved the situation at the margins, but would have achieved essentially the same results. As for halting the slide toward statism, the president’s hands are pretty much tied as long as the GOP maintains its House majority and the filibuster isn’t completely shelved by the Democrats in the Senate.
The GOP may be reduced to fighting a rear-guard action against efforts by liberals to “transform” America, but as long as they stick together, they should be successful. And it should give us heart that, as Philip Klein points out, Americans agree with the conservative critique of government:
According to exit polls as described by Politico, “53 percent of those surveyed said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals — a figure that’s risen 10 points since the 2008 election. Comparatively, 41 percent of voters said they believe government should be doing more.”
As bad as things are economically today, they were worse in 2008. As the economy improves, the American people look to the state for assistance less and less and support the idea of limited government more and more. This has been part of the American response to economic hardship for decades, and while there is proselytizing and outreach by conservatives that need to be done in order to remind our fellow citizens of our exceptional nature in this regard, the core belief in this principle is solid and isn’t going anywhere.
People like Cooke sell Americans short. There is too much reliance on a “boiling frog” scenario, where we all just sit around and allow the president to have his way with America, radically altering the country and shaping it into his image of a European social democracy. The liberals had two years to accomplish this and the best they could do is Obamacare — a law that both Democrats and Republicans are already talking about drastically reforming.
This election was as much about rejecting Romney as it was about embracing Obama — perhaps moreso. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with Americans, and in four years they will be given another chance to prove it. So let this be the last “woe is us” post-election analysis. Not only is it unhelpful, it’s simply not reflective of reality.